I have a confession: I was not bullied in high school.
I don’t *think* I was a bully, either, but memory is a tricky thing. I remember girls in my high school who were… pretty universally picked on. I don’t recall going out of my way to pick on them, but it’s safe (and unfortunate) to say I also didn’t go out of my way to defend them either.
I didn’t harass them (to my recollection), and I didn’t assault them (by, for example, knocking books out of their hands or tripping them in class). But I didn’t invite them to sit with me at lunch either.
I dare say this puts me firmly in the majority of teenagers, at least at that time.
If you read enough parenting sites on the World Wide Interwebz these days, it seems there are two groups in high schools (and younger, even): the bullies and the bullied. And if you aren’t the latter, then by default you’re the former.
But I wonder about that. I think most teens are like I was: not an aggressor, not a defender, not a victim. I just wanted to survive being a teen.
That said, I very nearly did get beat up one day. I yelled an insult about a girl in gym class. She heard me (I don’t know why I thought she wouldn’t), and teamed up with the toughest chick in my class (this girl smoked cigarettes!), and threatened to kick my ass.
I don’t know why she changed her mind.
I worry a little bit about my own girls. They are still young, but the drama is already pretty rampant. When Niece visits, it is just a matter of time until one of the girls is stomping off in a huff, wanting to be alone, or complaining about not getting played with. It makes me roll my eyes a little — we’re talking about a 6-, 5-, and 4-year-old here. Flora has come home from daycare (not DCL’s) complaining about one of her “friends” calling her stupid or not wanting to play with her.
The other day, Nephew even had to come to me to tell me that Flora hit him in the privates. When I talked to Flora about it, she was devastated that he told on her.
“I don’t like being told on!” she wailed.
I more or less pointed out that she shouldn’t do things to other people that are going to get her told on, then.
I’ve told my daughters to walk away if someone is doing something to them that they don’t like (i.e. calling them names, physically bothering them). If the person doesn’t stop, they should tell an adult. I have misgivings when I give this advice. Am I turning them into tattletales? At the same time, I don’t want them to take playground justice into their own hands and start hitting people.
We all know the kid that gets caught hitting gets in the most trouble.
When my brother was in eighth grade, he suddenly developed a real phobia about going to school. He had stomach aches, headaches, complained nearly daily about having to go.
When my father — who, incidentally, grew up on the streets of ‘SLiberty — finally got to the bottom of things, it turns out my brother was getting picked on. Bullied, more or less. A bigger boy (my brother was about a year younger than his classmates) was constantly threatening to beat him up.
My dad told him to fight the kid. And then had to teach my brother how to make a fist.
We grew up in the suburbs of Erie. We didn’t fight — as a practice anyway. My dad had a different childhood. He was pretty amazed that his son hadn’t already been scrapping on the playground.
Dan, too, was bullied in grade school. He said he finally turned around one day and socked the kid in the nose. Bloodied it for him, knocked him to the ground. The kid never bothered him again.
So, what will I be telling Michael in a few years?
Again, I don’t believe in helicopter parenting my children. When they are sniping with each other or with their cousins (on either side), I try to stay out of it. They have to learn to negotiate these relationships by themselves. As long as no one is putting her hands on someone else, then I try to keep my lip zipped.
Are there signs that your kid is going to be a bully, or be a victim? If it’s clear they are not being bullied, should I assume they are bullying? How do you (plan to) negotiate these waters?